PRIME MINISTER MITSOTAKIS: Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
It is an exceptional pleasure to welcome here in Crete the Secretary of State of the United States Mike Pompeo.
This is his second visit to Greece in the past twelve months, whilst I have also visited the US last January when I met President Trump.
I therefore subscribe to his statement that the relations between our two countries have never been so close and productive as they are today. These relations are reaching all levels.
I am also happy that my friend the minister will stay as a guest here at my place, in Chania, Crete. Because in this island beats not only the heart of Greece, but also the heart of the Eastern Mediterranean. Strong however, beats the pulse of the Greek – American collaboration.
It is no coincidence that we speak right now from the base of 115th Fighter Wing of the Hellenic Air Force. A little while ago we visited the US – NSA base and the Greek frigate “Salamis” at dock K14. In this way Souda emerges as the most strategic point of the broader area. Here the interests of both our countries meet, alongside those interests of security and peace.
In the land of Crete are deployed our allied forces and our communications, and very soon, as the minister will also tell you, Souda will become the base port of USS Hershel Williams, one of the largest vessels in the US Navy. Meanwhile in the skies over Souda and over Crete, Greek and American fighters will continue to guarantee stability in the region.
It is no coincidence after all, that from here Greek wings operate on one side of the runway, and American wings operate on the other. They share though, a common take-off and landing facility.
The upgraded Agreement of Mutual Defense cooperation between Greece and the US extends its actions to the field of our defense industry spearheaded by the modernization program of 84 of Greece’s F-16 fighters to Viper level. It also provides for common projects and very significant common investments in Greek shipyards.
It also expands in other fields and other places too. Like in Alexandroupolis, a city that is turning into a hub for the transportation of American natural gas to continental eastern and central Europe.
There as you know, a floating natural gas refining facility is built, for regasification to be precise. Meanwhile we are launching the privatization of the port, and we will do the same with the port of Kavala.
Mr. Pompeo talked about these with our ministers of Foreign Affairs and Development, yesterday in Thessaloniki. They also signed a new, very important bilateral agreement for the collaboration of the public and the private sector in the field of innovation.
This is also proof of the leading role Greece plays in the Balkans. In the Balkans where Greece returns in force after nearly ten years of absence.
Our Balkan peninsula is a geographical location that garners many common interests for both Greece and the United States. Thessaloniki has been – and will always be – their dynamic base.
The eagerness for American investment in infrastructure, energy as well as in digital technology I had the opportunity to find out by myself speaking with the head of the International Development Finance Corporation, during his recent visit to Greece.
The DFC is the US state corporation for American investment abroad. The common conclusion we ended up with is, as our friends and interlocutors say, “the sky’s the limit’ in what we can do together.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is clear however, that in our talks the prevailing issues remain the matters concerning security in the Eastern Mediterranean.
It is a very sensitive region that has been recently tested by the aggressiveness of Turkey. With provocative actions outside the sphere of international law. With a needless extreme rhetoric that often charges the atmosphere. And also with tactics that do not often reassure the honesty of her intentions.
That is to say, with actions that are opposite to the values of the western world. Such actions that, unfortunately, Ankara continues in the waters of Cyprus, as you minister yourself found out while you were in Nicosia, a few days ago.
Myself and the ministers we presented the Greek position to the American delegation and I believe they are totally aligned with the last statement made by the State Department.
If I were to summarize in four words I would say: no to unilateral actions. The Greek answer to all provocations is none other but the defense of our national rights.
This answer however, is always complemented by initiatives of good neighboring. Like the recent agreements on maritime zones we signed with Italy and Egypt as well as the emblematic establishment of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum.
It is about a policy that is essentially hailed by almost all our neighbors and our allies: Cyprus, France, Israel, and Egypt.
The European Union, which will be examining its relations with Turkey in the coming EU Summit in two days’ time, the Arab world also, I’d say the entire international community.
Because in a time where old enemies become friends, like Israel with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, no waves of threats and rivalry must rise in the Mediterranean. It is after all, a sea of strategic importance for the US too, as this is clearly stated in the East Med Act. It is also a key region with regard to world stability.
I was very glad to see that Mr. Pompeo shares our views. That he understands that tension between two NATO member states is to no one’s interest in the end. And that he also opposes every arbitrary action that a priori undermines every well intended dialogue. And, surely, that International Law should remain a steady compass for all of us.
After all, he is himself aware of our readiness. Both for the exploratory talks, that we expect to be starting soon, and the technical procedure that is taking place within the NATO framework.
I am therefore moderately optimistic that now it is diplomacy time.
Dear Secretary of State, dear friend Mike,
Your visit here has forged one more ring in the chain of the powerful bonds between Greece and the US paving the way for new perspectives on multi-level collaboration between the two countries.
I am certain that you too have drawn new strength from Crete in order to serve the great ideals that made your country great too. Liberty, Equality, Justice.
In a while we will be celebrating the 200 years of the Greek Revolution, a revolution inspired by the American Revolution.
And this I think will be a very good opportunity to make a common appraisal for all that we have done and for all that we can achieve together. And those are a lot.
I wish you a pleasant stay on our island, and a good and productive continuation of our talks.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Thanks for the kind words, and good afternoon to everyone assembled here today. Last night, Prime Minister Mitsotakis so graciously hosted my wife Susan and me in his beautiful family home. It was a wonderful time. I want to thank you and Mareva for being such gracious hosts, and I hope that we can return your kindness one day before too long.
I think it’s very safe to say that the relationship between our two countries is at an all-time high. It’s getting stronger. It’s evident by the conversations I had with the foreign minister yesterday and with the prime minister and his team today. It’s also evident from the historic set of engagements between the Trump administration and the administration of Prime Minister Mitsotakis. This is the first time that the Secretary of State has visited Greece twice, and my team spends an awful lot of time here, too. You talked about Mr. Boehler and the DFC, who came here.
Yesterday I was in Thessaloniki – another first for a Secretary of State – to meet with the foreign minister, Foreign Minister Dendias. I also met with the Greece and North Macedonian energy officials, talked to CEOs about regional integration, talked about opportunities for economic development throughout Greece, and we’ve already seen fantastic work. I know there’s more to follow. We’ve had great American companies like Pfizer and Cisco and Deloitte come to invest here in Greece and create opportunities for their companies as well as for Greek businesses and the people of Greece as well. Their expanding presence is deeply consistent with the prime minister’s welcome embrace of economic reform and openness all across the globe.
I would note, too, that the foreign minister and I also addressed the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, where both sides must stop the violence and work with the Minsk Group co-chairs to return to substantive negotiations as quickly as possible.
It was also very special for me to be able to pay tribute to Thessaloniki’s storied Jewish history and commemorate Yom Kippur during my tour of the Jewish museum there. It was indeed a sobering reminder of the necessary work that we must continue to do to fight anti-Semitism and educate young peoples about the history and the evils of the Holocaust. In that respect, I’m looking forward to seeing Greece preside over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in the year 2021.
But to the business of today. Today I’m in Crete to showcase one of America’s strongest military relationships throughout all of Europe. We, the Americans, look to Greece as a true pillar for stability and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean, and we are incredibly proud to support its leadership. Our security cooperation has grown tremendously – indeed, by leaps and bounds – we were talking about today with the minister of defense in the (inaudible).
We’re working to advance things that we did about a year ago with the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreements. It’s come to life here in Crete, in Larissa, in Stefanovikeio, in Alexandroupoli. Today I have an announcement that the prime minister foreshadowed, where the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, the U.S. Navy’s newest expeditionary sea base, will call here – will call Souda Bay home. It’s literally the perfect choice in light of the facility’s strategic location and it’s symbolic of a defense partnership that will continue to expand and to grow.
Our security cooperation today is especially important as Russia continues to destabilize the region, especially in Libya, where the U.S. calls for the withdrawal of all foreign military forces and support for military de-escalation and for Libyan reconciliation.
The prime minister and I also agreed to explore closer cooperation to overcome challenges that Russia poses through malign influence activities such as the spread of disinformation on the pandemic and trying to co-opt the Orthodox Church.
On energy, we had a great discussion yesterday. I reiterated the United States support for Greece’s ongoing efforts to diversify energy routes and supplies throughout the region. Free markets should make decision about energy supplies instead of Russia’s Gazprom.
The U.S. also believes deeply that development of the Eastern Mediterranean should promote cooperation and provide a foundation for the durable energy security and economic prosperity of the entire region. We strongly support dialogue between NATO allies Greece and Turkey and encourage them to resume discussion of these issues as soon as possible. I spoke with Secretary-General Stoltenberg just two days ago on the progress being made at NATO, and we hope that these talks can continue in a serious way.
Finally, I raised the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to use economic power here and in the region to gain strategic leverage over European democracies. We are very proud that Prime Minister Mitsotakis and his team are developing and promoting Greece’s digital frontier, including on 5G, and we’re happy that they have joined the Clean Network as well.
Prime Minister Mitsotakis, I can’t say thank you enough. Your team has been most gracious. Thanks for another outstanding visit here to get a chance to be in Greece and be with the Greek people as you celebrate 200 years, a most welcome anniversary for a truly shining light in the region and a great partner and friend of the United States of America. Thank you all very much.